Sunday, March 24, 2013

Two Popes With Two Styles That Symbolize Real Differences

The differences between these two popes go way beyond pectoral crosses and shoe color--no matter how the 'professional' Catholics try to spin these differences as really continuity.

There is an interesting phenomenon coming out right now from the 'Vaticanista's, those Vatican reporters who are acclaimed for their insight into all things papal and Vatican.  This morning two of them, John Allen and Andreas Tornielli have very similar posts describing the continuity between the young papacy of Francis and that of  his predecessor Benedict. I don't remember that a similar apologetics was mounted about the differences between Benedict and JPII.  That could be because the Ratzinger papacy was purposely intended to be an extension of the JPII papacy and there was very little difference in substance and truthfully only surface differences in style between the last years of the JPII papacy and the entirety of the Benedict papacy.

The following is an excerpt from the Andreas Tornielli article at Vatican Insider and these links, here and here,  take you to two articles from John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter.

.....The real continuity between Benedict XVI and Francis is seen in the many gestures, hints and points of focus that have emerged in these first days of Francis’ pontificate: The day after Francis’ election, Benedict XVI said that “the Pope makes Christ’s light - not his own - shine wherever he goes. In a meeting with journalists Francis stressed that the “protagonist” is Christ, not the Pope.

Their sensitivity for the protection of creation – which humans are at the top of – and the environment is something the two popes have in common. Then there are their thoughts on careerism and “spiritual worldliness” in the Church: anyone who has listened to one of Ratzinger’s deep homilies on these issues cannot deny there is continuity between his ideas and Francis’. Only those who are not familiar with his writings on the liturgy could be led to think that they gave importance to superficial aspects. In as far as the discontinuity between Ratzinger and Bergoglio is concerned; we need to ask ourselves to what extent Benedict XVI’s collaborators helped him deliver his core message. Just as Paul VI should be rescued from certain “Montinians” who consider themselves to be the only ones authorised to keep his memory alive through their own vision of his papacy, so Benedict XVI should be salvaged from certain “Ratzingerians” who have tried on more than one occasion to teach him how to be Pope.


Allen and Tornielli can do their best to make Catholics believe there is no real difference between the papacies in substance, but no amount of spin can do the same for the differences in style.  Unfortunately for these Vaticanista, the differences in style point to real differences in substance.

Pope Benedict 'ruled' as a self styled 'benevolent dictator', not dissimilar to how he 'ruled' in his classroom.  At times he appeared to give out grades.  The LCWR, amongst others, garnered an "F".  Priests like Fr Roy Bourgeios were expelled, bishops like Australia's William Morris lost their tenure.  Benedict's was an autocratic authoritarian style somewhat different from JPII, but just as authoritarian.  For Pope Benedict the truth in Catholicism, as he taught and understood that truth, trumped living the Way as actually taught by Jesus.  The long Tradition of Catholicism and it's two thousand year history of interpreting the Way held more authority in Benedict's teachings. This was born out in his Liturgical preferences.  Upon his elevation to the papacy Benedict advocated and modeled an ostentatious liturgical style designed to emphasize the Church Triumphant over and above the lowly people of God--and by extension, the power and authority of the clerical priesthood. The fact Jesus has multiple attributions in the Gospels directly against this kind of worship and priestly authority had no bearing what so ever at all on how Pope Benedict enacted liturgy.  It was Tradition.

In contrast, JPII had such a force of personality he didn't need the liturgical trappings to make the same point.  This attitude of his is born out in Ordinatio Sarcedotalis, whose driving rationale for the permanent exclusion of women from ordination is not derived from the Gospels, but from the sheer authority of the papacy, and his his own papacy in particular.  While Pope Benedict never used his own authority as pope for any similar definitive statement, he had no problem citing his predecessor as the authority for maintaining similar stances. JPII provided a lot of footnotes for Benedict's professorial approach.  For an academic there is safety and authority in footnotes. Truth and fact are another matter.

Pope Francis is not cut from the same cloth as his two predecessors.  He is not an authoritative autocrat or a theologian heading the ultimate theology department.  He is not a professor with a billion students, over half of which are flunking out.  He is a student himself, and a student of the Way of Jesus as Jesus' way is recorded in the Gospels. This is a radical change in approach from his two predecessors and implies real differences in substance. Francis is a pilgrim pope leading/following a pilgrim church.  No matter of spin and apologetics can change this fact. 

I do wonder how much of this sudden need to scramble for continuity between the two very disparate papal styles is being orchestrated by the Vatican, or worse yet, how much of it is due to these supposed 'experts' finally getting a clue as to the amount of harm that the last two papacies have done to the Church in the West and Latin America.  I kind of suspect it's a combination of both and yet another indication of how 'simple' the powers that be think the laity actually is.  The laity is not simple. It's concerns just haven't been heard.  Pope Francis offers real hope those concerns will at least be heard.


  1. I don't know if you've seen this picture yet, but it speaks volumes.

  2. Wow. This really does make a statement.

  3. Here is a picture of Francis's shoes. These are the shoes of a man who has walked alot. Not only do I think Francis would eschew the red loafers as a matter of principle but I suspect that none of them would have fit such rough, wide and warn feet! That aspect in itself speaks substantially about where this man has been and where he may lead the Church...

  4. These are great photographs. Yes, I doubt that red loafers would log the same miles that these shoes would.

  5. The differences sure are amazing!! PBXVI with the fancy table runner over his shoulders and seated upon a very large baroque looking golden monstrosity and the simply attired new Pope Francis I on his simple chair. And the vision and messages are very different. God Bless Pope Francis I.

    Maybe the RCC will get its act together with this new Pope, who really seems to be a new hope.

    What would really be wonderful is if this Pope Francis I reinstated Fr Roy Bourgeios and Australia's William Morris and whoever else the richly-dressed authoritarian Pope fired or got rid of, sent packing, excluded.

  6. Give me 500 words! Journalism today, with a few rare exceptions, is astoundingly awful. JP2 had been incapacitated for years and much of the last decade of his papacy was surely the first decade of Ratzinger's. How could there be anything but continuity? Remember there was a Ratzinger fan club, using the phrases "God's Rottweiler" and "smack-down on heresy since 1981" on T-shirts and mugs before there was a Pope Benedict.

    Fashion is so important to the traditionalists that there are many web pages, blogs and Tumblr accounts devoted to Cardinal Burke and his silk, err, make that ilk. If clothes make the man then these men were being made a caste apart. Nobody else cared, quite frankly, until Francis challenged the status quo ante. (Woo hoo looking me use my high school latin, take that you modern day scribes and Pharisees!) But what does it all mean?

    1. Silver = Argent: The names of Argentina and the Rio de la Plata are derived from the word for silver. It may be a nod to his homeland. Perhaps the choice of a less precious metal than gold says something about his frugality and solidarity with the poor. Although I love the idea of artists and artisans being employed to create new art the choice of an off the shelf ring definitely supports the latter. Use what you have.

    2. Rejection of the mozzetta and red shoes: Did the new pope say "I prefer not." or "The carnival is over."? It doesn't matter because the carnival is over for those symbols of absolute monarchy and those who promote that form of Catholicism. Francis has rejected many other monarchical traditions since. Elite is out, get over it toffee nosed gits, there's a new bishop of Rome in town.

    3. Ratzinger parsed the translation of the liturgy to emphasize those who would be excluded. Salvation became "for many" rather than "for all" such fear did he, and other traditionalists have that an unworthy person might get to heaven. Don't hold out false hope for the wretches. We'll see what happens with the wording but in the meantime Francis is with the hired help, the jailed, and the lame.

    4. Crackdowns, smack downs, excommunication and exclusion: Ratzinger gave it his best. The old ways don't work. The Bergoglio family fled Mussolini's fascist dictatorship. He was raised with a different world view from his predecessors. Bergoglio on unmarried mothers:

    In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptise the
    children of single mothers because they weren't conceived in the
    sanctity of marriage.
    These are today's hypocrites. Those who clericalise the church. Those
    who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who,
    rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it
    into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it's

    5. Evangelization had better start with former Catholics and lapsed Catholics. What about the nones? What about the nuns? The new pope shows deep respect for others and "the other" by asking a blessing upon his introduction and by giving a non-denominational blessing at his first audience with the media.

    Who was Jesus? Christ the King? Or the Good Shepherd?

  7. In the same way B16 has shaken the Vatican by his retirement Francis can radically change the church by acting unilaterally to end this absolute monarchy.

    One of the few absolute monarchies left in the world is that of Saudi King Abdullah. It is a country few in the west hear about regularly. However, almost everyone in the West knows that in public Saudi women must wear the abaya, which covers a woman from head to toe exposing only the woman's eyes, and that Saudi women are forbidden to drive. It would come as no surprise that the country is ranked 130 of 134 countries for gender equality.

    Justice is measured by religious principles, indeed there is a religious police force for Promotion of
    Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. There is no jury or lawyer to represent the accused. Punishment is often swift and severe. In addition to fines, jail, and other deterrents, one might be whipped, have a limb severed or subject to beheading by sword in the public square.

    Against that background a group of about 100 Saudi women began a protest called My Right to Dignity in 2011. They raised their voices to obtain the right to drive.

    As any absolute monarch might do the King reconsidered his position, perhaps in light of the Arab Spring all about him. The women's protest was allowed to continue. The King appointed 30 women to his "Shura" or advisory council, something which had never happened before. The King made provisions to grant women the right to vote in the 2015 elections and has promised to re-consider the issue of laws banning women driving.

    Francis would be wise to follow some of the King's lead.

    In other news, an Australian newspaper reports that Francis is considering the dissolution of the Vatican bank.

    We'll see, my friends, we will see. Sometimes change comes as quickly as a lightning strike.